Image depicting SZA.  Her latest release “SOS” is her second studio album. Illustrated by Everette Cogswell.

SZA released her second studio album, “SOS” on Dec. 9, 2022. The album combines a variety of genres, including R&B, rap, indie, and pop. It keeps elements from her previous album, “Ctrl,” while still holding a unique, more polished feeling.

With high energy and amazing singing, SZA brings out raw and empowering emotion in the opening track, “SOS.” I like the instrumental on it, and it easily brought out my bass face. The self-centered “I’m most important” attitude was also enjoyable to listen to.

“Kill Bill” is by far the most popular song of the project. SZA has good singing but I had a few gripes, like her easily digestible mainstream-oriented melodies, making “Kill Bill” sound like an advertisement’s background music. The instrumental was also good, but I enjoyed the previous track more.

“Seek & Destroy,” the third track on the album, didn’t feel unique compared to the first two. It had an interesting bassline and I liked the sample used, but it felt repetitive compared to the rest of the songs. I also got annoyed with the way she was saying “Do it to you,” which is a really petty ick to have but these were my thoughts nonetheless.

“Low,” was definitely a step up from the previous songs. SZA had really good vocals on this track and I loved how she sounded over the beat and the ethereal sample that was used. I do have one complaint with the track though: Travis Scott’s ad-libs felt super out of place without his actual vocals and I kind of hated it.

“Love Language,” was able to capture its title really well. SZA’s singing combined with the instrumentals really captured a sensual emotion. Though this is the case, the instrumental sounds like something I would have made in my first year of producing, it was super simple and I didn’t really like it.

“Blind” switched up the R&B tone of the rest of this album to a more raw emotional feeling. I liked the half-rapping and half-singing over the emotional instrumental; it captured a warm feeling that I really enjoyed.

The next four songs on the album: “Snooze,” “Notice Me,” “Gone Girl,” and “Smoking on my Ex Pack” have an interesting dynamic of R&B to rap then repeat. “Snooze” and “Gone Girl” feel super similar with the same repetitiveness of an indie R&B mix. “Gone Girl” did stand out to me a little bit more with a more unique feel and better melodies, and the production was really good. “Notice Me” and “Smoking on my Ex Pack” were both more rap oriented, with “Notice Me” being a bit more pop-y and “Smoking on my Ex Pack” being more classic rap aligned. Both tracks were good.

“Ghost in the Machine” (feat. Phoebe Bridgers) was a really cozy/vibey track with dream-like instrumentals and angelic vocals from Phoebe Bridgers This was probably my favorite track on the album, and I adored the production on it. 

“F2F” is the worst song on the album by far. I hate most pop-punk and that is exactly what this song is. I don’t have a lot to say about it other than that SZA’s vocals being so heavily autotuned, with the modern pop-punk feel, was sickening.

“Used” (feat. Don Toliver) went back to the R&B format with low-passed drums and funky basslines. Once again SZA had great singing and harmonies, but oh my god I despised Don Toliver on this. I am slightly biased as I’m not big on him, but his horribly autotuned vocals threw it off so much. 

“Nobody Gets Me” was another repetitive song on the album. It felt too radio-friendly, with a weird wavy pop-country feel. It wasn’t that bad, but it bored me with no stand-out characteristics. 

“Conceited” was a step up from the last few tracks being rap with better instrumentals. I didn’t like the chord progression that much; and I really didn’t like the part in the post-chorus where she repeated “Me, me, me,” it got on my nerves. 

“Special” and “Too Late” had brighter, rawer instrumentals in contrast to the previous tracks, but the corny lyrics on “Special” were foul. I hated the intro line “I wish I was the girl from the Gucci store,” it immediately set a tone that the track was gonna be self-loathing while pretending not to care. The instrumental was really carrying this song for me.

“Far” and “Shirt” returned to the R&B and rap styles. I really enjoyed her vocals and the vibey beat was nice. This song reminded me of the artist Keshi a lot and I love him so this was a hit for me. I got some The Weeknd vibes from “Shirt” and I really liked the instrumental on it. 

“Open Arms” (feat. Travis Scott) has a weird intro vocal sample which doesn’t match the track at all. This song has a very wavy indie-pop vibe. SZA’s vocals didn’t really work with the instrumentals and I wish she used less autotune and mixed the track to be rawer and less processed. Travis’s vocals on this song were so bad. Again, the autotune on this instrumental doesn’t work at all and his voice and style of singing don’t match in any way  which made the track so much worse. 

“I Hate U” went back to R&B which I enjoyed more when compared to the last song. SZA works so much better on these types of instrumentals and her singing style doesn’t clash at all. I liked the instrumental for the most part, except for the chord riff that would go off sometimes. It felt kind of out of place due to the preset they used for it. It is based in saw waves and sounds crunchy when they should have used sine waves for a softer sound.

“Good Days” is a really pretty song. I like the guitar used but it had an annoying soulful and cheap consumerist feel to it. It had some interesting effects and elements, and SZA’s singing was really good. Overall a solid track.

“Forgiveless” (feat. Ol’ Dirty Bastard) is definitely one of the best on the album. The beat used is so unique and has a lot of cool elements to it. I enjoyed the classic rap feel and the clips of Ol’ Dirty Bastard were really fitting. I just wish they processed the vocal clips slightly better into the mix of the song. 

Overall, I enjoyed this album. There were some parts I disliked but it was a solid project for the most part. It was pretty unique but sounded repetitive at times. For the overall album rating I’m gonna give it a 7/10.

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